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Apple CEO pushes privacy promise

By Eric Jou ( Updated: 2014-09-18 17:02

On the eve of the new iPhones launch, US technology giant Apple released an online statement regarding the company's commitment to privacy.

The statement, posted on Apple's homepage on Wednesday in the form of a public letter written by CEO Tim Cook, used no uncertain terms in reiterating its stance on consumer information.

Cook wrote: "We're publishing this website to explain how we handle your personal information, what we do and don't collect, and why. We're going to make sure you get updates here about privacy at Apple at least once a year and whenever there are significant changes to our policies."

In what could be taken as a jab at Internet companies such as Google and Facebook, Cook's letter made a reference to consumers as a "product."Apple has repeatedly stated it does not collect and use users' personal information.

"A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realize that when an online service is free, you're not the customer. You're the product. But at Apple, we believe a great customer experience shouldn't come at the expense of your privacy."

A prime example of a companmy using user data is direct advertisements. Facebook takes user data and harnesses the information to direct user-specific ads. If a user is interested in guitars, for example, they will be bombarded with advertisements for guitars.

Apple claims its own ad service, iAD does no such thing. In the privacy webpage, Apple claims that its business is not focused on advertising.

To showcase their commitment and transparency, Apple has created a series of webpages to explain the company's privacy stance. The new pages explain in multiple languages the privacy functions found on Apple devices.

Cook states in the letter that Apple does not share or provide backdoors for governments to user data.

In August, Apple came under fire when several celebrities had their personal iCloud cloud-based data storage accounts accessed by hackers. Personal photos of celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton were posted online. Apple claimed the incident had nothing to do with a security breach on its iCloud service, but was rather a targeted attack on the celebrities' accounts.

Cook's letter does not directly address the iCloud incident. It does mention security features that can prevent such a breach, such as two-step verification by which users input a special code that is usually generated from a smartphone,

In regard to ongoing controversies over governments monitoring of the Internet and consumer devices, Cook reiterated Apple's stance.

"Finally, I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will,"he wrote.

Apple is currently storing a cache of Chinese user data in a server built with Chinese state-owned telecom company China Telecom. In a statement to the Wall Street Journal in August, Apple claimed all data stored in data centers is completely encrypted and secure from outside parties, which means inaccessible to China Telecom.

Apple's newest iPhones, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus go on sale in the US, Hong Kong and other locations on Friday. The latest version of its mobile operating system, iOS 8 is available for free download for iPhone 4, 4S, 5 and 5S users as well as users of the iPad 2, 3, new iPad, Air, and mini.

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